essential oils for DIY bug spray with witch hazel and amber spray bottle on counter next to plant.

Inside: Keep ticks and mosquitos OFF your kids (and you, too) this spring and summer with a homemade bug spray – made with essential oils and WITHOUT apple cider vinegar. Have fun outside without fear of all the scary, disease-carrying bugs!

Several weeks ago we weren’t quite in full “spring go-mode”. So I wasn’t actively encouraging everyone to apply tick spray when they went out to play in the backyard. 

And wouldn’t you know it, I was brushing my 5-year-old’s hair one night, and I saw some black flakes on her head.

Those black flakes looked like they were moving and led to a black mass in the center. It was SUPER freaky! Like she had a whole COLONY of something living on her head. 

I panicked and ran – ok, ok, I screamed and sprinted – to get my husband who discovered it wasn’t in fact a colony of insects, just a big ol’ tick.

(The black specks were just dried blood. They only looked like they were moving because they blended with the tick’s legs.)

He removed said tick, and we sent it in to a free testing center. It didn’t carry Lyme’s Disease, thankfully!

All that to say, it was a good reminder that ticks come out to play way earlier than you think! You need to be prepared with whatever you’re going to use to keep them away.

I’m not comfortable with Deet for regular use, so we make our own tick spray, a blend of various recipes. 

And when they actually apply it every time they go outside, we don’t have any ticks. Bonus: the mosquitoes stay away, too!

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young child putting on bug spray.

Growing Up in a High Lyme’s Disease Area Made Me Tick Paranoid for Life (Mosquito Bites Suck, Too)

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Just to clarify up front, I am not a super crunchy, “essential oils cure everything” kinda mom. I’m a “essential oils make sense sometimes and plus, they smell nice and look pretty” kinda mom.

I still burn the occasional candle, and there’s no way in heck that I’m putting essential oils in my kids ears for an ear infection.

If you are this kind of mom, you are totally welcome here! And if you put essential oils in ears, carry on.

I DID grow up in an area where Lyme’s disease was a borderline epidemic. I knew a lot of people who got it, plus people with long-term chronic Lyme’s disease, including someone who almost died from it.

To say I’m paranoid about ticks is an understatement, which is why when I find one on my kid, I freak out just a bit – ok, a lot – and send that sucker to a free lab for testing (THIS is the one I used). 

Then I know whether or not I need to pay special attention to the kid who had the tick for the next few weeks because the bulls-eye rash doesn’t always show up.

Probably due to my own tick paranoia, I have kids with extreme bug fears. This spray puts our fears mostly to rest (we still do skin checks when we come inside) – without extremely potent and possibly toxic Deet.

And since I want my kids to be able to play outside without fear, this spray supports that goal.

Related: 30 Laid Back Spring Bucket List Ideas for Kids (& Tired Parents)

peppermint essential oil close up.
Optional: Peppermint Essential Oil

Ingredients & Supplies Needed to Make This DIY Bug Repellant

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, here’s what you’ll need to make this spray.

I happen to buy my essential oils from Young Living because I like to support a friend, but you can buy them from any reputable essential oil company. 

Find more information about all the essential oils that repel ticks HERE. I only use a handful of them in my spray.

4 Oz. Spray Bottle

I prefer THESE dark amber spray bottles

This set of two came with two replacement spray nozzles, as they do stop working over time.

Witch Hazel

You need more than just water when making a spray with essential oils. You need something to help the oil disperse and blend properly with added water. 

Many DIY bug sprays call for apple cider vinegar, which serves this purpose.

But personally, I can’t stand the smell of vinegar, unless it’s in my ketchup. So witch hazel it is! I bought THIS brand.

Geranium Essential Oil

This one is especially targeting the ticks. They hate geranium oil (rose geranium oil is a variety), who knew?

Cedarwood Essential Oil

Cedarwood is toxic to ticks and their larvae. Mosquitoes don’t like this scent either.

Lemongrass Essential Oil

This one is mostly for the mosquitoes.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Again, for those annoying mosquitoes. My kids have bites that itch and ooze for days!

Optional: Peppermint Essential Oil

It turns out most bugs hate the smell of peppermint oil. That being said, some people are sensitive/allergic to peppermint oil.

If you’re considering adding this oil, I would add it FIRST to the bottle with the witch hazel and water and spray it on a small patch of skin to test for any kind of negative reaction. 

That way you don’t waste the other oils if you find out it’s not for you.

adding drops of essential oil to amber spray bottle with other ingredients in background.

Recipe for DIY Tick & Mosquito Spray with Essential Oils

Onto the actual recipe!

1. Fill the 4 oz bottle one third of the way with witch hazel.

This doesn’t need to be perfect. Just fill it about 1/3 of the way with the witch hazel (I use THIS brand).

2. Add 10 drops of each essential oil to the witch hazel.

Add the following to the bottle:

  • 10 drops geranium essential oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops lemongrass essential oil
  • 10 drops cedarwood essential oil
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil (if using)

3. Fill the rest with filtered water and shake to blend.

You can use regular water if necessary.

4. Spray generously on legs and clothing before playing the yard or woods.

We focus on legs for ticks, but for mosquitos, I’m starting to spray my hat as well.

backyard septic hill with zipline and scooters scattered.

Enjoy Your Time Outdoors and Stress Less About The Bugs

While I don’t force my kids to play outside, I do gently encourage it sometimes.

And when they do genuinely want to go outside all on their own, I don’t want a fear of bugs holding them back. This spray calms their fears.

I hope it does the same for your kids! Happy summer! ❤️

Read Next: 5 Reasons NOT to Do the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge


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